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Are CIOs being too Conservative with Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation changes the nature of every aspect of business. The concept extends to every department in an enterprise, as well as into the marketplace. For CIOs, in particular, digital transformation represents a unique opportunity. Chief information officers, chief technology officers, and other technology managers must change with the winds of digital disruption or risk becoming obsolete.

The Role of the CIO and Digital Transformation 

Historically, IT departments have largely held responsibility for oversight, security, and accessibility in their companies. The CIO often controls a company’s technology budget, and may have the ability to approve or deny technology requests from other departments.

They’ve focused on hardware and software management—the legacy solutions the preponderance of cloud solutions and outsourced services increasingly marginalizes. CIOs have two choices. They can maintain habit and fade away with old school technology—or they can take the helm as the company adopts a culture of change and undergoes digital transformation. In a slightly altered role, CIOs in this brave new world have the potential to act as innovators and directly impact profit-turning activities.

Evidence in a CIO Advisory report from KPMG in 2015 echoes this sentiment. According to a survey of IT executives, over half believe their business has been or will be disrupted within a two year timeframe. However, less than a third are proactively working towards digital transformation.

CIOs Need to Take an Active Role

As companies naturally move towards more technologically progressive solutions, the IT department will naturally need to make accommodations to support changing needs. I believe CIOs can make or break a company’s digital transformation. They can become a productivity and innovation enabler—or they can constrain the enterprise technology environment with rules and strict oversight. CIOs who choose to take a more proactive role can:

  • Strategically approach a transformation – Some companies will stumble into a digital transformation because they can’t help it. Others will purposefully drive a transformation and use it to their advantage. CIOs can identify the key areas where disruption will influence the sales cycle and champion meaningful projects to help their companies gain traction in the marketplace.
  • Embrace enterprise intellectual capital – Many CIOs have spent their careers managing application access and device use. Successful businesses today demand more flexibility. Instead of preventing employees from using their own devices and applications, they can support shadow IT endeavors for the good of the enterprise. Opening up the conversation for greater technological awareness will drive progress.
  • Collaborate with other departments – Departments can no longer afford to keep their distance from one another. Marketing, technology, customer support, and sales all overlap in the digital world. Working together strengthens each department individually and the enterprise as a whole.
  • Maintain competitive knowledge – IT departments should not merely troubleshoot and support. A great CIO and technology team should also serve as consultants, encouraging digital learning and becoming an invaluable resource for technology. According to a study from Ernst and Young, 53 percent of CIOs in IT-focused industries sit at the executive management level. In other industries, only 17 percent of CIOs hold that much influence.
  • Source the proper talent for the transformation – The IT department of tomorrow does not have narrowly focused help desk personnel, but idea-generating problem solvers who can engage with the company on many levels, not just as a technophile. Talented individuals will hold their own as tech support specialists, but should also have the ability to break down technology concerns and implementations into understandable terms.
  • Work with security personnel for risk management – Successful digital transformation hinges on the ability to reasonably manage risk in the digital space. CIOs should play an active role in security strategies, and take advantage of outsourced services, as needed, to maintain enterprise budget concerns, while pursuing technological progress.

The next few years represent the unique opportunity for CIOs to reimagine themselves in the world of constant digital disruption. With the right level of agility, collaboration, and talent management, they can maintain their “sexiness” and facilitate—rather than hinder—a digital transformation.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

CIOs Must Overcome CEOs’ Unclear Strategy to Drive Digital Transformations
Digital Transformation and IT: The CIO´s Balancing Act
How a CIO’s Key Decision-making Moments Can Drive Digital Transformation

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Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.